Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Book Review: Breaking Beautiful by Jennifer Shaw Wolf

Breaking Beautiful by Jennifer Shaw Wolf

Reading Level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: Walker Childrens; 1 edition (April 24, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0802723527
ISBN-13: 978-0802723529
Series: No
Source: ARC provided by publisher
Cover: I'm kind of underwhelmed by this one. I think the pink show does catch my interested but I would have liked it more if there was evidence of a crash with the metal railing broken. For me, it'd add a little wonder.
First Sentence: The clock says 6:45, even though it's really 6:25.

Mini-Review: Breaking Beautiful shows that even the broken can heal into something beautiful once again.

Allie lost everything the night her boyfriend, Trip, died in a horrible car accident—including her memory of the event. As their small town mourns his death, Allie is afraid to remember because doing so means delving into what she’s kept hidden for so long: the horrible reality of their abusive relationship. 
When the police reopen the investigation, it casts suspicion on Allie and her best friend, Blake, especially as their budding romance raises eyebrows around town. Allie knows she must tell the truth. Can she reach deep enough to remember that night so she can finally break free? Debut writer Jennifer Shaw Wolf takes readers on an emotional ride through the murky waters of love, shame, and, ultimately, forgiveness.

Breaking Beautiful is the perfect blend of heartbreak and triumph told through the eyes of a girl trying to find the pieces of her life to pick up. Sprinkling details of an abusive relationship between the stitches of what is left of Allie's normal life brings just the right amount of drama to this beautifully crafted story.

Allie is one of those narrators that isn't easy to forget. What she has been through leaves both physical and internal scars that color the ways she sees everything. At the beginning, we find Allie trying to cope with the loss of her boyfriend from a tragic car accident and to recover from her physical injuries. Living in a small town means she is under a microscope and one tiny wrinkle in her mourning causes a wave in the town. I was afraid Allie was going to be too mopey for me to like but as she starts to make herself go through the motions of her day, the reader begins to see who Allie actually is and not what grief and guilt wants her to be. We find out that she was involved in an abusive relationship with the boy who died and is so broken and conflicted by what they appeared to have on the outside that she can't get over the death. I loved how even though Allie was hurting, she could still find the good people. I was a little frustrated that she wouldn't stand up for herself and wanted to shake some sense into her for always succumbing to what people expected instead of what she wanted. But because she was so broken and timid, it made the moment she started fighting back so very satisfying.

Blake was literally the perfect guy for Allie. He understood that she needed to heal, though he didn't know how much, and he never stopped trying. After some of the stunts Allie pulled, I'm not sure I would have kept trying to be her friend but he was unrelentless. Blake's reputation as a bad boy made him appealing but his soft edges and kindness made him irresistible. I loved their relationship because I believed in it. Their attraction was undeniable but the fact that they took their time and started to realize how wonderful the other was made watching them fall in love addictive. Blake was pretty much the perfect opposite of Trip and I liked watching him win everyone over despite his reputation.

Besides Blake, I also fell in love with Allie's twin brother Andrew. Born several minutes after Allie and with little oxygen he has celebral palsy that confines him to a wheelchair. Even though he has trouble speaking and using his limbs, he is incredibly smart and can often see things that other can't. I loved that Allie respected him and their bond really warmed my heart. That the author worked to make Andrew a complete character instead of a stereotype turned this book from awesome to incredible and truly delighted me. I found myself understanding Andrew like Allie and it felt like a secret that we all three shared.

I think abusive relationships are really hard to write about because it's easy to get preachy or to go for the shock factor. Though Trip was incredibly abusive, I felt the author did a tremendous job of broaching the subject. We get snatches of Trip and Allie's relationship during the good times mixed in with the bad. As Allie fights to remember the night of the accident, she uncovers more details of abuse and a disturbing pattern of Trip's behavior that forces the reader to understand why she is so timid. Wrapping those good and bad relationship scenes in with the narration of the current time worked to move the pace forward and build anticipation as to what actually happened on the night of Trip's death. Since Allie truly doesn't remember it turns the book into a mystery about halfway through. Allie even questions herself as a suspect.

I also liked how the author portrayed small town living. As a girl that moved around a lot, Allie was always longing for a home. But when they finally settle down, she beings to realize that in a small town nothing can be hidden unless people don't want to see. Trip comes from a rich family and is loved by most of the town so no one wants to see him as an abuser even if it is right in front of their face. Allie is still the new girl and is far more susceptible to the town's whispers. She feels pressure not to start a new relationship--though she realizes early on that Blake is a good guy-- and to act like the normal widow. She can't move on from Trip because the town she lives in won't let her. Even if I didn't always agree with Allie's choices, the author did an awesome job making us feel the suffocation that small town living can offer.

Breaking Beautiful is perfectly named as we see what Allie could be through Blake and Andrew's eyes and it is beautiful but we also see how broken Allie is. Deeply emotional with a satisfying slow relationship that burns hot like embers, Breaking Beautiful is damn near perfect. Dealing with such a tough issue could allow this book to be swallowed in grief but it chooses to show that even the broken can heal into something beautiful once again.


Favorite Lines:
The parade of life going by sounds so close it could be marching through my bedroom.
--Pg. 3 of an ARC of "Breaking Beautiful" by Jennifer Shaw Wolf
In a place the size of Pacific Cliffs, the whole town knows your business almost before you do.
--Pg. 14 of an ARC of "Breaking Beautiful" by Jennifer Shaw Wolf
...The darkness is so heavy that I can feel it.
--Pg. 70 of an ARC of "Breaking Beautiful" by Jennifer Shaw Wolf
Fight back against the queen and you're public enemy number one.
--Pg. 79 of an ARC of "Breaking Beautiful" by Jennifer Shaw Wolf
With my lack of coordination, roller-skating is definitely a sport that could get me killed.
--Pg. 93 of an ARC of "Breaking Beautiful" by Jennifer Shaw Wolf
Andrew beams. Its been a long time since he was in trouble. I think he likes it.
--Pg. 104 of an ARC of "Breaking Beautiful" by Jennifer Shaw Wolf
I have this urge to growl and see if they run.
--Pg. 121 of an ARC of "Breaking Beautiful" by Jennifer Shaw Wolf
So now I'm on a first-name basis with a pawnshop guy. Mom would be mortified.
--Pg. 136 of an ARC of "Breaking Beautiful" by Jennifer Shaw Wolf
I spread out the jewelry in front of him: a gold bracelet to make up for the time Trip gave me a black eye and I  had to hide in my bedroom with the "flu" so Mom wouldn't see; the silver and jade necklace for the "t" on my arm; an expensive watch, just because I was always late; and a heart-shaped pendant, the first gift Trip ever gave me. 
--Pg. 187-188 of an ARC of "Breaking Beautiful" by Jennifer Shaw Wolf
All this time I stayed covered, hiding bruises that have disappeared.
--Pg. 234 of an ARC of "Breaking Beautiful" by Jennifer Shaw Wolf


  1. This sounds great! Can't wait to read this.

    Great review! :)

  2. Yay! Glad you loved it. I did too.

    I know what you mean about wanting to shake Allie. She doesn't do anything to defend herself and it's so frustrating. At the same time, though, it wouldn't have been believable for her to be strong just because Trip was gone. He was breaking her down mentally for so long, which was even worse than the physical violence I think.

    That's why she needed Blake so much too. He loved her so much, and though so much of her. She needed someone who would just love her for what she was, and not tear her down.

  3. Great review, as always - I wanted to read this when I first heard about it, and since then I've seen a few mixed reviews, but yours has convinced me to give it a go.
    Thanks Amber!

  4. I am going to have to read this one as well.


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